Martha Rhodes

 

 

Poems By Rita Dove

The Bridgetower

Demeter, Waiting

The House Slave

 

 

 

The House Slave

The first horn lifts its arm over the dew-lit grass
and in the slave quarters there is a rustling—
children are bundled into aprons, cornbread

and water gourds grabbed, a salt pork breakfast taken.
I watch them driven into the vague before-dawn
while their mistress sleeps like an ivory toothpick

and Massa dreams of asses, rum and slave-funk.
I cannot fall asleep again. At the second horn,
the whip curls across the backs of the laggards—

sometimes my sister's voice, unmistaken, among them.
"Oh! pray," she cries. "Oh! pray!" Those days
I lie on my cot, shivering in the early heat,

and as the fields unfold to whiteness,
and they spill like bees among the fat flowers,
I weep. It is not yet daylight.

 

 

 

 

 

From SELECTED POEMS (W.W. Norton, 1993)

 


                                                           

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
         
    Poetry Center Reading:
    Fall 2010